Now that I have your attention, I want to talk about the card game Euchre and a little about setting priorities. Euchre is played with just the “9” and higher cards in each suit of a typical deck of playing cards. Generally cards of a higher value win or “take the trick.” The twist that makes this game a little more than a four-person game of war is that one suit is declared “trump.” All cards in the trump suit are considered higher value than any card of the three non-trump suits. There are more nuances to the game, like the jack of the trump suit is actually the highest valued card and the jack of the other suite of the same color is the second highest… The details are not important to my point today, but you really should learn this card game if you ever plan to move to the Midwest.
Once you finally tire of Euchre – and honestly once you get all the rules there’s not that much strategy involved – I recommend a game called Trumpet, which features six suits! And by the end of the game each of the suits are arranged in some ascending order of value. i.e. Hearts trumps Spades trumps Clubs trumps Diamonds trumps Stars trumps the Lucky Charms Leprechaun, etc.
I recalled these games while thinking about my process for setting priorities. One might view the process of setting their daily agenda as a distribution of time and energy. With my current work role in a middle management position, I can never accomplish all the things in one day that I would like. I must find an equitable way to establish which activities are pursued, whose emails get responses, and how late I can be for dinner. Each category of activity is basically a suit on the ladder of trump. I might order a few personal suits as such, in descending order:
- Family Obligations
- Pickup Soccer with my Friends
- Project Deadlines
- Responding to my Project Team Members’ Question
- Proposal Writing and Business Development
- Doing my own Calculations
- Accounts Receivable
- Improving Office Best Practices Guidelines
- Writing ASCE Blogs
- Updating Social Media
And there you can see why it’s been so long since my last post.
I think there’s also a time scale element to setting priority. My priority surely changes as deadlines approach. At 9:00 on Friday I might enter the office with the intent of accomplishing some calculations, but then set that aside by 10:00 in order to attend a team meeting. After lunch I may realize that there was a proposal due by EOB, and I’ll focus on that to completion. There might still be time at 3:00 to fire up CAD to help a colleague on deadline, but nothing is going to stop me from leaving at 5:30 to meet my friends for our weekly pick-up soccer game (except family or injury). Immediately after the game though, it’s a race back home to make it in time to tuck in my girls. Maybe then I can steal a couple hours to write that blog. All this is to say that the deck is constantly reshuffled, but it is important to be aware of the long term top priority and be conscientious of decisions that re-order the trump suits.
Lastly, means of communication can help you move your cause up the priority list. However, we all might not necessarily agree on the order of importance. I think most professionals would favor the following in descending order: face-to-face, over-the-phone, email. So if you really need an immediate response from me, stop by my desk. Don’t take it personally if your email languishes for a couple of days (or infinitely if it’s lost among the masses). Where do new communication types, like various forms of Instant Messenger or social media messaging, belong on the list?
Trump is priority.